NASA plans to test its rocket-powered flying saucer – designed to demonstrate technologies that will come into play for delivering heavy payloads to Mars – today (June 4, 2015) from a test range in Hawaii. NASA Television and JPL’s Ustream channel both will carry live coverage of launch activities beginning at 7 a.m. HST, 1 p.m. EDT, 1700 UTC. Launch commentary begin 30 minutes prior to launch, which will occur no earlier than 7:30 a.m. HST.
The saucer-shaped Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, will be carried aloft by a high altitude balloon from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.
NASA said in a June 3 statement of today’s test:
The balloon may take two to three hours to reach its float altitude of 120,000 feet. After the balloon reaches test altitude, the saucer-shaped LDSD test vehicle will be dropped and its powered flight will begin.
A fraction of a second after dropping from the balloon, and a few feet below it, four small rocket motors will fire up to spin stabilize the saucer.
Just over two seconds later, a Star 48B long-nozzle, solid-fueled rocket engine will kick in with 17,500 pounds of thrust, sending the test vehicle to the edge of the stratosphere, or about 180,000 feet, at a speed of Mach 4. Shortly after reaching solid rocket motor burn out, four additional small rocket motors will fire up to de-spin the saucer.
At about Mach 3, the test vehicle will deploy the supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (SIAD). The SIAD decelerates the vehicle to approximately Mach 2.4. The test vehicle will then deploy a large supersonic ringsail parachute, which will further slow the test vehicle to a controlled water impact landing about 40 minutes after being dropped from the balloon.
The LDSD crosscutting technology demonstration mission will test two breakthrough technologies that will enable larger payloads to be landed safely on the surface of Mars or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth.
Bottom line: The saucer-shaped Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD – – designed to demonstrate technologies that will come into play for delivering heavy payloads to Mars – will undergo a test today (June 4, 2015) from a test range in Hawaii. Watch online via NASA Television or JPL’s Ustream channel beginning at 7 a.m. HST, 1 p.m. EDT, 1700 UTC.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.